Monday, April 4, 2016

Dad who assaulted mom, held knife to daughter's chest AWARDED CHILD ACCESS after getting out of prison (Australia)

Sickening, but all too common. Dad is identified only by his last name, a pseudonym.

Family Court judgement: Father who bashed partner and threatened child granted access

Date April 3, 2016

Rachel Olding Reporter

A man who bashed his partner and held a samurai sword to his daughter's chest has been granted access to the nine-year-old following his release from jail.

The long-running dispute in the Family Court has incensed anti-violence advocates, who say the court still has a poor understanding of domestic violence and is too often granting access when there has been a history of violence.

It comes amid calls to nationalise the recommendations from Victoria's landmark Royal Commission into Family Violence report released during the week.

It recommended an overhaul of the entire court system, including the creation of specialist family violence courts.

A photograph showing the injuries inflicted upon a domestic abuse survivor who was later told that the man who bashed her should be allowed to visit their daughter.

Given the pseudonyms Ms Tindall and Mr Saldo, the couple from Sydney have been bitterly fighting over parenting orders since their relationship ended in 2008.

The court had ordered weekly paternal visits but, in August 2010, Ms Tindall suddenly stopped dropping the child at meetings because she had given evidence against Mr Saldo in his criminal trial for bashing her, tying her to a chair and holding a sword at the child in their Sydney home in 2007.

Graphic photographs tendered in the District Court showed bruising sustained by Ms Tindall, 34, when her then partner repeatedly punched her because he believed she had tried to cheat on him.

He pleaded guilty during the trial and was sentenced to at least two-and-a-half years prison.

Ms Tindall was convicted in 2013 of 20 breaches of the parenting orders because Justice Stewart Austin believed the criminal trial didn't constitute "a change in the family dynamic" that would warrant her halting weekly visits.

"The father's decision to publicly admit his past violent behaviour changed nothing about the history of the parties' relationship," he said, in a judgement that was later overturned by the Full Court.

After being released on parole in 2014, Mr Saldo, 38, applied to have his regular visits reinstated.

He expressed no remorse, saying he was pressured into pleading guilty and didn't commit the offences.

The child was interviewed by a family consultant and asked what she wanted to happen, to which she said she knew her father had hurt her mother but "I would be upset if I didn't get to see him".

Accordingly, Justice Margaret Cleary ordered in January that monthly visits at a supervised centre start, building up to fortnightly visits.

She praised the father for his "positive conduct... stability and lawfulness" in prison and noted that he intended to apply to have his conviction acquitted.

He has not filed an appeal more than two years later.

She admonished Ms Tindall for "avoiding time between the child and the father for her own reasons, which do not relate entirely to the child".

"The child is entitled to come to her own judgement about the father," she said.

Judgements issued throughout the eight-year dispute show the court's tendency to side with Mr Saldo.

Initially, child psychologist Dr R said he thought the mother was was making up the allegations, evidenced in her "disproportionate distress" and calculated manner.

An academic expert gave evidence that the mother, like many domestic violence victims, may have been acting in ways that seem irrational to reasonable people because of the abuse suffered.

When Mr Saldo pleaded guilty, Dr R issued a mea culpa, saying he had never been more wrong in his 20 years of report writing.

Former Australian of the Year and domestic violence survivor Rosie Batty, whose son was murdered by his father during a contact visit, told Fairfax Media she intends to turn her focus to the Family Court this year.

During a Senate inquiry last year, she singled it out as her "biggest area of concern", saying violent parents were too often being granted access to kids.

"There is a total disregard or a total ignorance of family violence being an issue," she told the inquiry. "You're viewed in court as likely to be lying to manipulate the system."

In a feature on the Family Court published in the Monthly in November, reporter Jess Hill found that judges were often deciding that access to an abusive parent was better than no access at all and that a parent supposedly 'alienating' a child from an abusive parent was possibly a greater threat.